Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE interview with Kazutaka Kodaka at GDC 2023

Gematsu had the opportunity to sit down with Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE screenwriter Kazutaka Kodaka at the 2023 Game Developers Conference, where we discussed the game’s mysteries, storyline, world, characters and more.

Get the full interview below.

The main concept of the game Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is solving puzzles. What kind of cases can players look forward to? What is the general flow of a case?

Kazutaka Kodaka, scenario author: “When a case happens for the first time, the protagonist Yuma will investigate the case by enlisting the help of the master detectives. Each of the master detectives has their own unique skills called Forensic Fortes. So whenever Yuma investigates a case, if he borrows the Master Detectives’ forensic strengths, there will be another method to solve those cases. And once Yuma finds enough clues, the god of death chasing you, Shinigami, has the magical power to create the mysterious maze. And the Mystery Labyrinth is a world where the mysteries of the real world are materialized. As Yuma advances through the mysterious maze, the obstacles will appear which will be the materialization of the mysteries. And the protagonist will advance through the mysterious maze and, once solving its many mysteries and problems, will eventually reach the truth.

“The Mystery Labyrinth is like a Disneyland attraction, and the environment changes as you move through it. So it’s like solving puzzles while driving all these rides. This game was made in 3D, so it’s a bit different from the other mystery games that are in 2D and where they just have conversations. But for RAIN CODE, you can keep exploring the world to solve these mysteries.”

Can you explain a bit more about how the Mystery Labyrinth works? What kind of puzzles can players encounter while exploring?

Kodaka: There are enemies called Mystery Phantoms who are the materialization of the will of people trying to bury the case who don’t want Yuma to find out the truth. And the protagonist will fight against the mysterious phantoms by moving, dodging their statements and facing their contradictions. Aside from the Mystery Phantoms battles, there will also be other mysteries that will be questioned and so on. There’s a lot of different question patterns, so not only will they fight, they’ll have QTEs and stuff like that.”

Is it possible to miss evidence or even fail an investigation during an interrogation, or is it something you can’t proceed with until you have all the relevant information?

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Kodaka: No, that’s not the case. The player must find all the evidence – he cannot miss it. You have to find everything for Shinigami to create the mysterious maze.”

I want to talk a little bit about the game’s world, which is set in Kanai Ward and is free to explore. How large is? Are there multiple districts, new areas that unlock as you progress – things like that? And is there more to do in this world when you’re not investigating a case?

Kodaka: “So Kanai Ward isn’t really an open world, it’s more like Persona where you select on the map and then explore the ward. Aside from investigating cases, the main story runs while you’re not investigating any cases. So, in order to follow the main story, the player has to go to different locations. There are also side quests that you can obtain from NPCs that will reward you.”

Do surveys offer opportunities for dialogue or are they rather linear and predefined?

Kodaka: “So this type of dialogue will appear in QTE questions in the Mystery Maze when investigating cases.”

Will there be an easy way for players to review case information for extra long cases? Is there a journal that the player keeps or something?

Kodaka: “For certain clues and evidence that the protagonist will find, these will become an item called the Solution Key, which will help solve mysteries in the mysterious maze. So that will be like the notes that the player takes.”

Can you explain how a Reasoning Death Match works? Do players also level up or acquire special skills or abilities?

Kodaka: “In Reasoning Death Match, the Mystery Phantom will unleash statements that approach the protagonist like an obstacle. And as players dodge or cut back on these statements, they find the correct evidence or clue they got while investigating the case. And once they find the answer key, it can be used for the statement that doesn’t seem right.

“There are also mini-games that users can play. By playing these mini-games, the protagonist can gain skills. There is a skill tree for our protagonist as seen in an RPG where players can acquire skills. Acquiring skills makes the game easier to play.”

In both RAIN CODE and Dangaronpa you have characters that are placed in high stress situations. How did you go about creating the same kind of tension and conflict that you were able to create in Danganronpa, but in a completely new setting?

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Kodaka: “The first thing that comes to my mind is how the characters are going to grow — how they’re going to gain experience throughout the story. And growth doesn’t always mean something good – it can be surprising or different, maybe something negative. And I think whenever a character goes through any kind of obstacle, he’ll grow more, he’ll try to deal with the situation. So by creating these high stress, stressful situations, I can see the characters growing. So I’m aiming for how characters are going to look, how they’re going to look in the eyes of the players. I look at the first impression they make on them.”

Speaking of comparison, you had this issue of hope versus despair in Danganronpa. Does RAIN CODE deal with similar topics? And if so, how is this addressed?

Kodaka: “RAIN CODE will have a different theme than Danganronpa. And we can’t really say much about it because if we do, we kind of spoil it, but people will understand what we’re trying to say. But I think the protagonist has to deal with a lot of stressful situations.”

As the creator of this game and the Danganronpa series, has your approach to game development evolved at all? Did you learn any lessons? I think with every new announcement you make, there are always fans who are expecting a different game like Danganronpa. How have you evolved to reach your fan base while not developing a new take on Danganronpa each time?

Kodaka: “Since RAIN CODE is being created by the same people behind Danganronpa, there will be similar elements as they consider Danganronpa one of their prides. So we don’t think it’s a negative that RAIN is inherently similar to CODE. And while Danganronpa was really well received, I thought there was a limit to creating the scenario. When I made RAIN CODE in 3D with the mystery maze and all that, I thought maybe we could appeal to a bigger audience that might not really like mystery games either. And I think because Danganronpa got so big, we had more budget to do more things. And I’ve always wanted to make a 3D game like Detroit: Become Human and Life is Strange. So we ended up creating a new IP. Ultimately, we made the game because we wanted to.”

What was the process of creating the Master Detectives? How did you come up with their unique powers and personalities?

Kodaka: “So there are many patterns in the process. There are some master detectives that have come about by thinking about the case first. And from there we go back and see what forensic strength would be good for this master detective. And there are also examples where we thought of the skills first and then found their case. I was also inspired by other games – Life is Strange for example has a feature that lets you go back in time. From there I was inspired to create a time warp ability. There is a master detective that can move through walls and become transparent. This idea also came from other games.”

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Can you tell me a bit more about Kanai Ward and how it relates to all the puzzles you will solve in the game?

Kodaka: “Kanai Ward is a city isolated from all outside communications. So in a way it’s like North Korea. (Laughs) There are many unsolved cases in Kanai Ward that the World Detective Organization sends out its Master Detectives to solve. Kanai Ward is essentially controlled by a mega corporation called Amaterasu Corporation. Police do not function properly in Kanai District, so Amaterasu Corporation has its own Peacekeepers to act as a police department. Kanai Ward is a city where it rains constantly. And the detectives will solve the very big unsolved case that is happening in Kanai Ward. The story is bold and well developed so that once players complete the game they will feel like they have watched a season of drama.”

Their previous titles have also been released on PlayStation, Xbox and PC. Are you considering releasing RAIN CODE on these platforms in the future?

Spike Chunsoft representative: “No.”

(In an email following the interview, Spike Chunsoft clarified, “[Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE] is exclusive to Nintendo Switch and we plan to only release it on that platform.”)

What can fans of your previous titles expect from RAIN CODE and what would you like to say to all first time players of Kazutaka Kodaka?

Kodaka: “Because this is a brand new type of mystery game, it’s very difficult to explain in words… I’m currently playing through the final stages of the game and I’m confident that players will experience something they already have.” never experienced. I think we played a really good game. Even if people don’t buy it, I want them to play it.”

Thank you for your time Mr. Kodaka!

Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE is coming to Switch on June 30th.